Meet the team China is pinning its hopes on to stop a trade war with US

A team including some of Xi Jinping’s most trusted aides will sit down with Donald Trump’s delegation to try to thrash out their differences

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2018, 7:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2018, 8:45pm

A delegation of top US officials will arrive in Beijing for high-level negotiations with their Chinese counterparts this week amid a brewing trade war between the world’s largest economies.

The bilateral discussions in the Chinese capital on Thursday and Friday will centre on long-standing complaints from Washington about Chinese trade practices, including Donald Trump’s criticisms of the growing trade deficit with China, lack of reciprocal market access, and forced technology transfers.

Washington will send a legion of tough-talking economic advisers to the talks, including US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro, and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

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The US has threatened tariffs on up to US$150 billion of Chinese goods while Beijing has threatened equivalent retaliatory actions on major US imports such as soybeans and aircraft.

Here are some of the Chinese officials likely to participate in the talks.

Vice-President Wang Qishan

The newly elevated Wang, the right-hand man of President Xi Jinping, is expected to take the lead in trying to broker a detente in trade relations. 

Expect tough talk from US trade hawks in China, not an end to the row

Wang, the former anti-graft tsar, has cultivated a reputation as a “firefighter” and he is expected to tackle the thorniest diplomatic issues, including relations with Washington. Analysts have argued that the 69-year-old’s appointment as vice-president – after he passed the Communist Party’s unofficial retirement age – reflects his importance to Xi. 

Wang has a deep knowledge of the United States – having dealt extensively with Washington during his stint as vice-premier in charge of economic affairs from 2008 to 2013 – and is even reported to be a fan of the political drama House of Cards

Liu He, Vice-Premier

Liu will be a mainstay of the trade talks in his capacity as Xi’s top economic adviser and recently visited the US to discuss economic issues. The Harvard-educated technocrat, 66, has previously served as the director of the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, a policymaking unit. In an address to the World Economic Forum in January, he promised to carry out China’s economic reforms “beyond the expectations of the international community.”

Zhong Shan, Minister of Commerce

Zhong has decades of experience as a Chinese trade representative. In March, he unveiled the country’s economic blueprint for the next five years, including its plans to heavily promote innovation to ensure China becomes a “strong trading nation” by 2050. 

Following earlier threats of US tariffs, he said that cooperation between China and the US was the only right choice, but was adamant that China would not be forced to open up its economy by other countries.

Zhu Guangyao, Vice-Finance Minister

Zhu has been heavily involved in the trade tussle between the two countries. Zhu hit back at the US threat to impose tariffs by arguing that China would respond with equal actions, but that he hoped relations would get back to a healthy track.

Zhu, the official overseeing the economic working group, is a veteran of international financial affairs, having joined the Ministry of Finance in1985.

He Lifeng, Chairman of the National Development Reform Commission 

He, the chairman of the “super ministry” that maps out the country’s overall economic direction, is seen as a close associate of Xi, having worked with him previously in the southeastern province of Fujian. Last month he urged Indian officials to work with China against trade protectionism and unilateralism.

Yi Gang, Governor of the People’s Bank of China

Yi, the newly appointed head of China’s central bank, has decades of financial experience inside and outside China, including studying and teaching economics at American universities. His role at the People’s Bank of China is to continue the country’s ongoing financial reforms, and he has pledged to maintain a “prudent” monetary policy and maintain financial stability.